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Start-ups

China’s most popular news app Toutiao hiring 2,000 content reviewers, with Party members top of its target list

Parent company Beijing Bytedance reacts immediately to 24-hour shut down last Friday, when app was accused of spreading ‘pornographic and vulgar content’

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 January, 2018, 7:17am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 January, 2018, 7:17am

Jinri Toutiao, China’s most popular news app, shut down for 24 hours last week, is on the immediate lookout for 2,000 “content reviewers” in a bid to clean up its act, with Communist Party members believed to be considered its preferred choice, according to online job adverts.

Valued at US$30 billion, according to the latest media reports, the app’s parent company Beijing Bytedance Technology is now among the world’s most valuable privately held technology start-ups, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Airbnb and Elon Musk’s rocket maker SpaceX.

With 120 million daily active users, Jinri Toutiao, or “today’s headlines”, employs various means including artificial intelligence (AI) to send customised content to readers, based on the stories and videos they browse the most on the app.

But central government cyber overseers shut it down last Friday for 24 hours over alleged breaches of regulations and for spreading what they called “pornographic and vulgar content”, and violating regulations on operating an online news service, they said.

China takes popular news app Toutiao offline for 24 hours over pornographic content

Apparently having taken heed of the incident, the company has immediately started advertising for reviewers on a Chinese hiring website, Lagou.com, which is designed specifically for recruiting IT professionals.

Bytedance confirmed it is hiring 2,000 content reviewers for Toutiao but declined to reveal any further information to South China Morning Post.

The company already has around 4,000 employees dedicated to the task of reviewing content, “the biggest content review team in China”, according to a report by Chinese news outlet The Paper.

The number of reviewers is expected to reach 10,000 soon, Xu Yilong, its editor-in-chief was quoted as saying.

“AI is not powerful enough to tell which messages contains vulgar information or could cause a negative impact on public opinion online,” said Li Jingwang, analyst with the Beijing-based market consultancy IT Juzi.

In one job description for a “content review editor”, uploaded by a verified Toutiao account, the company described the perfect applicant as someone who “loves reading news, cares about current affairs, and has good political sensitivity and judgment,” before adding “Communist Party members would be considered first”.

Fighting fake news the Chinese way: A peek inside China’s biggest news aggregator

According to the advert, each reviewer is expected to get through 1,000 pieces of news daily, including stories, videos and pictures. Salaries being offered range from 6,000 yuan (US$923) to 12,000 per month.

Party members are often deemed as having “higher political awareness” as they have to go through a series of strict review processes in order to be accepted. The Party now has around 90 million members.

China has shut down more than 13,000 websites in the last three years as Beijing has sought to tightened its grip on the internet and “clean up cyberspace”.

YouTube, arguably the world’s most popular video website, which is blocked in China, has pledged to increase its staff to 10,000 in 2018 to take additional steps to protect its advertisers and creators from inappropriate content on its network.